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Photo By: Alderleaf Wilderness College

I can remember going through old Tracker’s wilderness survival school back in the eighties and having him lecture me and the others quite soundly on the need to be able to boil water in the bush. Now at the time I fancied myself to be a survivalist of dynamic proportions and a hard hitting, white knuckled purveyor of the finest degree of manhood one could ever expect to encounter, either here or there for that matter. And I thought that it was much more likely that I would sip the filthy pooling from the bottom of a coyote track than to ever have to boil water for any reason… needless to say I hadn’t spent much time in the bush up to that point. I have to say that I have matured in my old age, and considerable excursions into the wilderness has definitely changed my opinion of myself in many ways. One of the things I have changed my mind about is the need to boil water. The truth of the matter is that there are several reasons to know how to boil water in the wilderness, here are three:

  1. To purify it for drinking. I know this is pretty parochial, but the basics are sometimes best reviewed before advanced knowledge is explored. Water should be boiled well for about twenty minutes to ensure that all of the bacteria ave been properly killed and it is safe for drinking then.
  2. To make stews, soups, etc. It never occurred to me until I lived it how much easier it is to gather food items in small quantities and then consume them in the form of stew than it is to say, spit them and eat them from the bone. So much nutritional value is wasted when we don’t boil them up into a soup that it is disgraceful.
  3. To make hot drinks. I love to make myself a hot dup of chicory coffee or pine needle tea when I am out in the bush on a military surplus tent adventure or a family camping trip. In the next installment we will discuss ways to boil water without the use of a tin cup or bowl.
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The art of kleptoparasitism, though not very chivalrous, can be quite profitable in a survival situation. The act is so prolific globally that there are actually tribes of indigenous Africans who still practice the stealing of another’s meat to this day. Even some who will fight lions off a kill. Though I’m not a proponent of trying to steal a fresh kill from a grizzly bear or a pack of wolves, there are several cases where I can see the advantages to taking another’s food in a survival situation, and can think of at least two incidents where I would do it unequivocally; and one other where I would do it grudgingly, depending on the situation. Here are the three times I think that stealing is ok.

  1. When you are robbing the hoard of a gatherer. In this instance I’m thinking specifically of squirrels and their nut caches. Though in reality I would want the squirrel and his nuts, I would just take the nuts if that is all I had. A good way to find caches is to wait for a light snowfall and follow the ambling tracks as the little varmint scampers about checking on his stashes.
  2. When you are robbing a bird of prey. This takes more luck than skill, as most birds of prey are hunting at night. However, if you are in a survival situation and you see a hawk, eagle, or owl make a kill on the ground, prepare to beat it away from that fresh meat; however, take care that you prepare for a fight, these things are pretty badass.
  3. Other humans if the situation applies. From a moral standpoint, this would require either dire consequences or an act of war whereas I was looting the reserves of an enemy. I could live with myself in either situation, providing I wasn’t taking their resources strictly from laziness, or if others more needy than they were depending on me.
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